For a wine writer, discovering an absolutely superb wine is like finding nirvana. Add in the ingredients of a consistent portfolio of wine, an outstanding winemaker, and a magnificent and architecturally pleasing setting for a winery. Such was the case when I had the opportunity to visit with Mark Beringer at Artesa Winery located in Napa’s Carneros region.
My first meeting with Mark was in Los Angeles, but seeing images of the picturesque Artesa Winery enthralled me. I made sure that my next trip to Napa included a visit to this Carneros region winery.
The winery is built into the hill, and on a clear day, one has an incredible view of the San Francisco Bay. As you walk up the winery steps, you are transformed into a peacefully calm atmosphere with the clean lines of a modern art gallery that immediately sets the stage for an extraordinary wine tasting. Think the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) meets Le Corbusier. This thought establishes one of the wineries themes, the interplay of art and wine.
Artesa is so committed to art that they have an artist in residence. That artist is Gordon Huether. His work is showcased around the winery, including the main sculpture in the fountain as you enter. This sculpture represents a contemporary abstract version of a grapevine.
The sculpture also incorporates Artesa’s emblem. The insignia seen throughout the winery and also on every bottle of wine symbolizes a triangle of balance with the sculptural vine in its center. The colors are intentionally earthy, thereby representing the balance between nature and earth.
The Carneros Winery
The Raventos family, the third oldest winemaking family in Spain, owns the winery. It is part of Grupo Codorniu. The family purchased the land in 1988 and 1991, opened its doors to the public producing sparkling wine. Discovering that the region was better suited for small artisan lots of premium wine, the winery transformed into Artesa in 1997.
Spanish Architect, Domingo Triay, created the design of the winery. His conception was to incorporate the winery so that it blends into the surrounding landscape, affording the magnificent views of the 350-acre estate.
Mark Beringer, the Artesa winemaker, is not a newcomer to the industry. Coming from a family immersed in the business of wine, Mark learned at a very young age, his love for the grape and making wine. After graduating from California State University in Fresno with a B.S. in Enology, he worked at Glen Ellen Winery in Sonoma.
In 1992 Mark joined Duckhorn as an enologist. During his tenure there, he earned several awards for his winemaking prowess. In 2009 he joined the Artesa team. Mark’s philosophy is a bare-bones purist approach to winemaking. By stripping away to the essentials and utilizing a component-by-component approach, Mark can create complexity and harmony in his wines, thereby capturing the essence of Artesa and its location.
When asked what wine is the most challenging, Mark exclaimed, “the Pinot Noir.” Mark’s favorite wine to make is the Sauvignon Blanc, but this could change because Mark “wants to evolve, putting some funk into his wines or maybe dirty it up by adding more layers of complexity.” The next vintage will tell us where Mark wants to go.
The majority of the wine created at Artesa comes from grapes grown on the 350- acre estate. The vineyards are located on the hillsides, where the soil is predominately silt loam as opposed to the clay soils found in the flat regions of the area. Combining this with small blocks of single varietals that are matched to soils and their exposure to the terrain, sun, and wind emphasizes Mark’s component-by-component approach to winemaking.
Artesa means handcrafted in Catalan, and it is the handcrafted wines that are its true gems making this winery the Jewel of Carneros. After tasting their wines, you will agree.
Los Angeles Visit
On my visit with Mark Beringer in Los Angeles, I tasted the following wines:
2012 Chardonnay Carneros: This wine is very aromatic, showing off the acidity and minerality typical of this region. One finds it is citrus-driven with wonderful floral character. It is bright with some stone fruit flavors of apricot. The grapes were hand-harvested and pressed whole cluster. Half the juice ferments in new French oak with the remainder in seasoned oak and stainless steel. Only 50% of the wine experienced malolactic fermentation before going through six months of aging before bottling.
2012 Chardonnay Estate Reserve: This wine is softer, richer, and creamier than the Carneros. It too, is very aromatic with citrus, floral and stone fruit flavors. The wine ferments in French oak barrels with 50% being new oak. It ages for eight months before bottling.
2012 Pinot Noir Carneros: This is a light and feminine, delicately balanced Pinot Noir with structure and complexity. Mark calls this the “Brides Maid.” The grapes are handpicked, de-stemmed, and placed into a temperature-controlled tank for a 3-day cold soak. After fermentation, the wine is pressed and aged for nine months in 30% new French oak.
2012 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve: This Pinot Noir is also delicate, displaying floral aromas with flavors of raspberries, rose petals, and hints of spice. Like the Carneros Pinot Noir, de-stemmed grapes go through a 3-day cold soak before being fermented for 10-days. The wine ages in 50% new French Oak for ten months. Mark calls this wine “The Bride.”
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve: The grapes come from the mountain top of Foss Valley Ranch in the Atlas Peak Appellation on the east side of Napa Valley. The wine has earthy and smoky flavors of roasted sage, black fruit, and chocolate. Volcanic soil gives the wine its structure. The wine is approachable. It ferments for 15-days with a portion in large oversized barrels followed by aging for 18 months in 30% new French Oak.
In my conversation, I discovered that also, Artesa makes many more, including a Rosé and a Tempranillo. Intrigued, I sample these wines before visiting the winery.
I have to say Artesa’s 2011 Tempranillo Alexander Valley is the best California produced Tempranillo I have tasted. I found a marvelous yet elegant wine with aromas of raisins and brown sugar. The flavors were cherry, vanilla, prune, and brown sugar. The stewed fruit quality gave way to a port-like finish. I loved the sweetness that permeates the wine. The wine is treated like a Cabernet Sauvignon and aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak.
I was fortunate enough to be able to taste the Tempranillo again on my visit to the winery. I came away with the same impressions as my first encounter with this wine.
The 2013 Rosé de Pinot Noir is a wonderfully fragrant Rosé with aromas and flavors of peaches, Rose petals, and almonds. There is a nice hint of spice on the finish.
On my visit to the winery, I sampled the following wines:
2013 Albarino: This wine differs from most Albarinos because 15% of the wine ferments and ages in new French oak barrels. Still maintaining its minerality, the wine is more rounded and less edgy. The wine has flavors of melon and pears.
2012 Chardonnay Block 92: This is a toasty and creamy wine with citrus flavors. I immediately thought of Lemon Tart. The wine ages 12 months in new French oak.
2012 Block 91D Pinot Noir: The grapes for this Pinot Noir come from the highest elevation in Carneros. This elegantly balanced wine has aromas and flavors of red fruits and spices like cinnamon. After a 5-day cold soak, the wine ferments and ages in new French oak for ten months.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Morisoli-Borges Vineyard: The wine with its earthy green pepper aromas gave way to flavors of dark fruit with mocha and chocolate. The grapes come from a seasoned vineyard in Rutherford. After secondary fermentation, the wine ages 20 months in new French Oak.
2011 Tradicio: This wine is a blend of 50% Tempranillo and 50% Graciano. The later gives the wine its brighter acidity. The flavors are those of sour cherry and raspberry.
Finally, based on my comprehensive introduction to Artesa Winery, their winemaker and wines, this winery combines old-world Spanish influences with new world techniques and styles. It is definitely a winery to visit and experience on your next visit to Napa. Find your own gems within its walls, and the winery will be your favorite Jewel of Carneros.
For more information:
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
1345 Henry Road
Napa, CA 94559
Tasting Room Hours
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily